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Thread: PD-6ANS and LED Christmas Light Ghosting

  1. #1

    PD-6ANS and LED Christmas Light Ghosting

    I re-installed our Christmas lights on the house/roof this year. Exact same lights as the two previous years. The lights are on a dedicated 20 amp circuit that powers plugs installed under the roof eves. The circuit is protected by a 20-amp GFCI breaker. I have a Caseta PD-6ANS switch that turns the roof lights on/off to a schedule. This year when I installed them, they powered up just like before. But after a few hours I noticed the lights were off. After a little troubleshooting I found the breaker had tripped. I looked for any signs of a short anywhere, wires pinched, etc, and did not see anything. I took a multi-meter and checked the resistance looking into the two light strings and got ~2M ohm resistance. I closed the breaker and turned the lights back on and monitored. Again after a few hours the breaker had tripped. It was a bit warmer to the touch than it should have been. But this was the same breaker as before and I did not add any lights to the previous years install. In fact at one time I had probably 100 more LED lights running on this same circuit with the same switch with no problem. When re-powering the lights I noticed a faint glow in the bulbs even with the Caseta in the OFF state. Very faint but there on both strings of lights. I never noticed this before. The one big difference between this year and last year is that I had Solar installed on the house. It is a 100% whole home backup install so all the circuits included the Christmas Light circuit are 'behind' the solar system. I'm not sure what difference this could make other than the solar inverters my not be as pure sine wave as the utility company?

    I've run out of ideas how to troubleshoot this or what to do about it. I did order the Lutron Capacitor that I will test out on this circuit when it arrives. However, the PD-6ANS is properly installed with the neutral and as I said worked perfectly fine the prior two years. It has well above the minimum load on the switch. I can't take the lights down and try them on a difference circuit, that will have to wait until the end of the season. I briefly tested them before they were installed on a different circuit and didn't notice anything unusual, nor did I notice them glowing. Could be that the breaker is bad and needs replacement, but it tests fine and is doing the job. Maybe the PD-6ANS is bad? It works manually and through the app as normal. I may have a left over Caseta dimmer I could swap in and test. Any ideas? Thanks.

  2. #2
    I forgot to mention above that I have a second PD-6ANS in the same 4-switch wall box. It operates the outside wall sconces, also all LEDs and a much lower load. No issues with that switch. It has been installed and operating daily for several years.

    Well I opened up the wall box and pulled the PD-6ANS out of the wall box that operates the Christmas lights. At first I saw a pinch on the red wire from the back of the switch. It looks lie it was pressed between the switch housing and the inside of the wall box. No break in the insulation, just a pinch. It must have been there when I first installed it several years ago. I ran the lights with the switch hanging out of the wall box and it seemed to work. But it had issues with the GFCI breaker. With the tab out on the face of the switch it would trip the GFCI breaker and I could not reset it. With the tab in I cold reset the breaker. I ended up just removing the Caseta and installed a normal toggle switch and the lights works fine. I think the PD-6ANS has just failed somehow. I have over 20 Caseta's in my house and this is the first time I've ever had an issue with any of them. And since they are not cheap I hope this is the last. I felt the Caseta's were rock solid and an investment in the house. And so far they have been just that. Maybe I'll replace it later with a new one but I have other things on my plate that are a higher priority. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Another update. After taking out the Caseta and replacing with a standard 'dumb' toggle switch, I ran the lights again and the breaker tripped again. So the Caseta switch may be just fine. I need to do more troubleshooting. I'll try to power the lights from a differ circuit if I can get enough extension cords together. And try to power some other items from the Christmas light outlet. Maybe the breaker needs replacement. Or something is physically wrong with the lights.

  4. #4
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    The breaker is tripping for a reason. Troubleshoot the circuit by taking the outlets apart to inspect wiring. Because it is dedicated you could look at the panel first for any signs of issue with the circuit. Because it takes time to trip it is not a dead short. Inspect the neutral on the buss bar and any outlet. Because you said it was warmer than usual it could be a melted or loose wire. Check those on the electrical side. Changing the breaker I doubt would have any affect and would be the last option.

  5. #5
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    What type of panel do you have? Certain type of GFI breakers are problematic. Knowing what you have and the age of the home could help.

  6. #6
    Thanks for the ideas. It is an Eaton panel with Eaton AFCI/GFCI breaker. It is only 7 years old. This circuit only gets used a month or so each year for the Christmas lights. And that is all it powers. I did notice the breaker is a little 'loose' in its slot. I haven't removed the panel cover to inspect inside the panel yet. By the time I get home it is dark and I'm too tired. But I was able to power the lights using extension cords and powered from a different GFCI 20 amp circuit. So far so good.

    Also when the breaker trips it is not really that hot. I'd say it is warm as expected but I can touch it comfortably. It might have been warmer than usual because it was powering the lights for almost 2 hours before it tripped. I did have a different breaker in a sub panel go bad. That was put in by an electrician and was so hot it could not be touched. I replaced that breaker with an Eaton breaker (matching the panel) and that problem was fixed. This suspect breaker may be sensing a loose ground/neutral somewhere or maybe because the breaker is a little loose and not fully bonded to the bus bar the AFCI is tripping it off. I probably need to take it out and inspect the clamp on the breaker or just replace it altogether and see if that fixes things. Also inspect the outlets as suggested.

    At first I thought this was a Caseta switch problem but it is not looking that way now.

  7. #7
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    That is why I asked for the brand of panel. Eaton AFCI?GFI in some models are recalled for being defective. Im unsure if yours is in the qualifying recall but its a start. Does your breaker have red LED that flashes after resetting ?
    If so you can recall why the last time it tripped by holding the small button resetting the breaker and releasing that button. That LED will flash in a sequence the reason it tripped last.

    Look up the recall on Eton website it will point you in the right direction if your breaker is that style. Two different kind as well. BR and CH. Ch has the brown handles. They are limited lifetime warranty while the BR has limited warranty.

    Try those before taking anything apart.

  8. Thanks Texas_Smarthome thanked for this post
  9. #8
    Thanks! That is great info. Yes I do have one of those breakers (many actually) and it does flash a code when I reset it. But I didn't count. I need to make it trip again and count the flashes. I seem to recall it was three and a pause and three again etc. When I went to the panel earlier today it had tripped without anything plugged in, and actually I had the switch open at the time so the breaker was only wired between the panel and the open switch. It does not go anywhere else. I'll report back when I can get the code again. I did buy a replacement ($70) just in case.

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    3 Short delay has been triggered. If the main mechanical breaker fails to take action during a direct short, the electronic system will kick in and force the breaker to trip. The mechanical breaker is most likely faulty and should be replaced.

  10. #9
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    Pull the breaker and see which gen it is. I think we are up to gen 7 now. Im guessing thats an older version. Not a good technique for troubleshooting but Im willing to bet that breaker is the issue.

  11. #10
    I was hoping this breaker would trip again so I could record the flashing code. It has tripped probably 20 times since I started using it again, but of course when I want it to trip it won't. It has been going over 24 hours now without a trip. I did pop it out of the panel and it is a Model Eaton BRLAFGF120 Gen 2. I've seen this Gen 2 is the problem generation. The breaker has a 10 year warranty and the house is less than 6 years old. But I have 5 of these **** things in the panel. I will call Eaton tomorrow and see if they will send me a replacement or maybe 5. I was hoping to video the fault code but it hasn't tripped since I last hit the Test button. But after running the lights from a different circuit for a few days it is not the Christmas lights and they are the only load. I also checked the neutral connection inside the panel and there was nothing loose there. Looks like a bad breaker.

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